Posts Tagged Bibi

More on the Levy report

IN A rather surprising move, Liam had this to say in response to my previous post:

Levy Report, and responses from government ministers, spells bad news for Israel – Liam Getreu.

MK is right

Of course, I knew that before, but it’s just so nice to see it on Liam’s blog.

On the other hand, Liam doesn’t really think I’m right and I don’t really think he’s right. So to briefly respond to what he actually said:

This isn’t something the Right wants to go away. It vindicates what they’ve been saying all along (‘there is no occupation’) and what they’ve been doing all along (treating the West Bank as a de facto extension of Israel itself despite the very different legal status conferred on it).

In fact, the Ynet report also discusses the radical departure from the current interpretation of the legal status of settlements and settlement outposts in the West Bank, based on the Sasson report delivered to right-wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005…

The Zionist Right prefers land to democracy. That’s fine. But it’s not Zionism. And it won’t enable the Jewish-democratic state of Israel to exist far into the future.

So aside from pointing out that sentence one directly contradicts sentence three,  in that last paragraph (the Zionist Right is not Zionist eh?), I would like to ask the following question: “so what?” Yes the report contradicts what Sasson said in 2005, but – as Liam points out – what it does do is merely re-iterate the “Zionist Right” position on the matter, one that has been consistent since the 1970s.

I see this as another example of an alarmist trend in Israel/Palestine commentary that is increasingly bothering me. Somehow a conflict that seems to change very little and very gradually (excepting the occasional sudden flare-up of violence) has a huge “turning point” every second week.

I don’t see anything particularly notable in a clearly stacked panel of dubious jurists – which was put together in order to appease people Bibi has won several victories over recently – releasing a report that says exactly what everyone thought it would. It isn’t indicative of any new trends or schools of thought in Israeli society.

NOW THAT Kadima has joined the Netanyahu-led coalition, the settlers actually have far less power than they had a few months ago. Regardless, Bibi has always been playing a double game – he fought the settlers on evacuating Ulpana and won, all the while declaring himself pro-settler and commissioning new homes in the settlement blocs that no-one believes are actually going anywhere. He clearly has his objectives in mind and he has his political strategy – one that has served him very effectively to date. I honestly cannot see how this report would make any difference to either his objectives or his strategy.

Bibi talks big, but he is a very cautious actor and his achievements come gradually and incrementally. For a while now, he has been very subtly undermining the outposts while maintaining the “pro-settlement” pretence. I don’t see how this report would change that, or anything else really.

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The cancer that is eroding the Jewish character of Israel

Source: Activestills.org

Source: Activestills.org

It is hard to put into words what I feel about the events in the South Tel Aviv suburb yesterday with the bitterly ironic name of Hatikvah. That said, putting things into words is what I do. So here goes.

I’ll begin with someone else’s words: Ha’aretz journalist Ilan Lior, who was actually there and watched the whole thing play out. Here is how he described it:

How a Tel Aviv anti-migrant protest spiraled out of control – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

I have been a journalist for ten years. I’ve covered terror attacks, funerals, car accidents, and protests. I’ve seen fury, frustration, despair, and sadness in a variety of places and forms. But I’ve never seen such hatred as it was displayed on Wednesday night in the Hatikva neighborhood. If it weren’t for the police presence, it would have ended in lynching. I have no doubt. Perhaps a migrant worker would have been murdered, perhaps an asylum seeker, or maybe just a passerby in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Israel’s asylum seeker problem

I have written in the past on how Israel provides its African asylum seekers with a safe haven that is unmatched by any other country that side of Europe, but also that they still face difficulties. The situation that they find themselves in is depicted very well in this piece by Daniella Cheslow and I recommend clicking through and reading it, but in essence: Israel has no policy.

Tens of thousands of people have been fleeing for Israel over the past decade, primarily from Sudan and Eritrea. The horrors that they face at home and during the journey do not bear thinking about. Amongst other things, they are hunted for their ethnicity, quite literally shot on sight by Egyptian forces, and often abducted by Sinai Bedoins, held to ransom and then tortured to death when they can’t pay (African refugees do not tend to have a lot of money).

After weeks of travelling through harsh deserts, often on foot, they cross the border into Israel – where they are greeted by the Israeli border guards, given food and medical attention, taken to a detention centre in South Israel so that Israel can figure out who they are, and then given a one-way bus ticket to Tel Aviv.

That is the end of Israel’s plan for them. They arrive in Tel Aviv with absolutely nothing – no working visa, no knowledge of Hebrew, no friends, no family, no support network. There are now 60,000 of them – almost 1% of Israel’s entire population – and the Israeli government has had no policy at all to deal with the issue. For reasons outlined here by Shallya Scher-Ehrlich, this is in breach of international law.

What happens next is quite obvious: they serve the same functions as large groups of illegal migrants anywhere else. They work in below-minimum-wage jobs for people unscrupulous enough to employ them in these conditions, they live in crowded accommodation in the poorest neighbourhoods and, out of desperation and because criminal gangs are one group that do not exclude them for the colour of their skin, they often become involved in crime (although reports of them massively increasing crime rates are highly exaggerated).

The areas that they moved into were previously (and in some cases still are) the ones predominantly inhabited by Israel’s other marginalised groups – Jewish immigrants from Arab countries and from Ethiopia, or ‘Mizrachim‘. How the old residents have reacted was captured quite well in a profile by Ben Hartman on Sophie Menashe, a Mizrachi Jew who found herself to be the last Jew in a building now inhabited by African migrants:

Jpost | African influx to TA worries elderly Jewish holdout

Despite the descriptions of a gilded past, these neighborhoods were never upscale and had a persistent reputation for being crime-infested. However, the influx of Africans has added racial conflict to the already troubled social dynamic and has left many veteran residents feeling foreign and outnumbered. …

The apartment was once a source of pride for Menashe. …

Over the years, her neighbors grew older and died or moved out, and more and more foreigners moved in; first foreign workers, mainly from West Africa and East Asia, and over the past five or six years, East African migrants and asylum- seekers.

The sentiments that Menashe expressed toward the African migrants left little room for nuance: They carry AIDS and other diseases, are violent drunks and might be part of a plot hatched by the Jewish state’s enemies to flood Israel with African Muslims, creating a demographic threat to bring down the country from within.

Although such views would offend a wide swath of polite Israeli society, they come from a place of fear and frustration, and from long days spent cooped up in her apartment, afraid to step out into a world that has shifted beneath her feet – where Menashe now feels like a stranger.

These tensions have recently started coming to a head, and the government is finally reacting as a result – building a fence along the border to Egypt and building a massive detention centre to house the asylum seekers. In many ways, it seems as though they are taking a leaf out of Australia’s book.

Whatever your views on mandatory detention, one particular leaf that Israel has now taken is unambiguously disgusting, hateful and unjustifiable. That “leaf” is the 2005 Cronulla riots, which in many ways were mirrored by yesterday’s events in Tel Aviv.

This car with an African driver was attacked by the mob. Photo: Ha’aretz

I began the post with Ilan Lior’s eyewitness report of the incident and another, by Hagai Matar, can be read here. The worst part is undoubtedly the fact that the crowd was fuelled mostly by Members of the Knesset.

Hatikvah was a riot

Let’s be clear though, while some of these were government MKs, the protest was against the government’s policy. The protesters and the speakers were complaining that the government has not been harsh enough on the refugees. What the parliamentarians said, however, was disgraceful. Lior quotes Michael Ben-Ari, a Kahannist, saying, “there are rapists and harassers here. The time for talk is over.”

Wore still was the quote from Likkud MK Miri Regev, which I feel the need to emphasise in bold:

“The Sudanese are a cancer in our body. All the left-wingers that filed petitions in the Supreme court should be embarrassed – they stopped the expulsion.”

As a few have pointed out, this is precisely the kind of abhorrent, racist rhetoric that Iranian leaders use to refer to Israel and Jews, rightly drawing condemnation from most of the world.

Even worse, it is the kind of language that Sudanese President Omar Bashir uses when he’s busy inciting genocide against the black Africans in his Arab-ruled country. This is precisely what these people fled in the first instance, hoping for a haven in Israel, yet they are met with the same revulsion. It’s sickening.

Even this was not quite the evening’s the low point.

Ben-Ari, Regev and Major Karnage favourite Danny Danon  managed to rile the crowd enough that they transformed into a mob and began attacking the journalists mentioned above for being “traitors” and allegedly “throwing rocks at checkpoints” (which, needless to say, both of them deny ever doing).

The mob started chanting “Sudanese to Sudan!” and making their way towards the largely African neighbourhoods. What ensued was beyond harrowing. The mob went around South Tel Aviv, smashing the windows of African-owned businesses, looting African-run shops and attacking passers-by who happened to be black.

I cannot think of any epithets that even approach how repulsive this is. Jews Sans Frontiers, a group with whom I do not often agree, compared it — not unjustifiably — to Kristallnacht. Watching some of the footage, this is exactly what comes to mind:

Danon’s response? Well, he figured that he’d pen an op-ed. This was published in the Jerusalem Post the morning after the riot:

Deportation Now! – JPost – Opinion – Op-Eds.

We are at a critical crossroads with a strategic demographic threat developing within our borders that may upend our country’s very character as a Jewish and democratic state. It is nonsensical that such large numbers of illegal infiltrators from Africa are settling permanently in our country and so little is being done to rectify this problem. This is especially highlighted when taking into account that the crime rate among the infiltrators is almost double the rate of that in the general population. The desperately necessary solution is a three-pronged program to end this dangerous phenomenon: stop, arrest and deport.

A threat to Israel’s “character as a Jewish and democratic state”.

No.

The rhetoric that Danon was supporting and that pogrom he incited is exactly the sort of persecution that Israel was created to prevent. The Zionist dream was formed when Jews had to regularly endure this kind of treatment and longed for a place where they would be away from it, where they would be able to live without fear — not a place to import the violent prejudice that plagued the countries from which they fled.

The concept of a “Jewish state” may be difficult to define, but it was definitely not meant in the same way that the Nazis spoke of a “German state”. Whatever some anti-Zionists may choose to believe, Israel was never intended to be a land “cleansed” of non-Jews. It is supposed to be a homeland for the Jewish people, that to some extent embodies Jewish values.

This riot was about as far from Jewish values as anyone can possibly stray. Where is the “light unto the nations” now? Who is “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

It is not the African migrants that are eroding Israel’s Jewish character, it is Danon, Regev and Ben-Ari. They are the cancer that is eating away at Israeli society, propagating this vile racism — not to mention trying to unravel the Constitutional basis for Israel’s democracy.

National unity

If there is some hope left to find in Hatikvah, it is in the fact that these MKs did manage to unite the Jewish people — against them. Jewish organisations around the world condemned what happened. Similar for everyone in Israel beyond a handful of extremists.

Even someone like Neil Lazarus — who has literally made his career out of defending everything Israel does — has come out strongly against Israeli racism as a result.

Moreover, the critical voices include members of the Government who are much more important than Danon:

Netanyahu condemns southern Tel Aviv violence – Israel News, Ynetnews.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on Wednesday’s violent protests in southern Tel Aviv and made it clear that “there is no room for the actions and expressions witnessed (in Tel Aviv). I’m saying these things to the general population and the residents of southern Tel Aviv, whose pain I understand.”

Rivlin: ‘Lawmakers Must Guard Their Words!’ – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News.

[Knesset Speaker Reuben Rivlin said that t]he people “may demonstrate and protest and demand the government formulate a solution, but there should be no incitement – and it is forbidden to use the same tactics anti-Semites used against us [in the Exile].”

“We suffered greatly from incitement and harassment,” Rivlin said. “We must be committed to sensitivity and finding just solutions. The main problem is not the infiltrators and refugees, but the lack of a clear policy from the government of Israel.”

It is important to maintain perspective. As Michael Koplow pointed out, there were only about 1,000 people who attended the rally, and fewer still who actually rioted.

Also, while I did use the word “pogrom”, this is not like the state-sanctioned pogroms that the Jews of Eastern Europe were subjected to. Happily, no one was killed or seriously injured on the night – thanks in no small part to the heroic actions of the Israeli police. Israeli society has overwhelmingly condemned what went on and it has been made clear by the Prime Minister and the President that this kind of thing has no place in Israel.

In that spirit, I strongly believe that the Members of Knesset who were involved in the affair should be forced to resign. What they said and did is absolutely unacceptable and their parties should not countenance that behaviour.

Also, I will be donating money to the African Refugee Development Centre in Tel Aviv, I suggest that you do the same.

I will leave you with some words from Adam Ibrahim, a leader of Israel’s African migrant community:

An African migrant’s plea for a few basic rights – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

If you don’t want us here, don’t turn your rage at us, because we have no choice. I have nowhere to go. I just want to live in safety. I agree to be deported to any African country, other than Sudan. I just want to live with dignity, without people talking about the color of my skin, and I want to stop feeling hostility on the streets.

It is important for me to say that we are not a burden on society. We work for less than minimum wage in jobs that Israelis wouldn’t want to do themselves anyway. We pay rent, and make do with organizations that we established ourselves. It is hard for me to hear Eli Yishai’s statements in the media. Their impact on Israelis is tremendous, since in Israel everyone listens to the news.

The state is spreading negative propaganda against us – they say it is unsafe here because of us. I feel that the Jews are doing to us the exact same thing the Germans did to them. Don’t talk nonsense – we are in the 21st century. Don’t talk about skin color, don’t talk about slaves and don’t say that I stink. We want to see a real democracy – not only words.

I know that I will never have equal rights here. I just want to receive the few rights that I do deserve as a refugee.

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HUGE news: Kadima/Likkud unity government

This is a VERY welcome development in Israeli politics. Bibi Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz have agreed to form a unity government instead of going to early elections.

In surprise move, Netanyahu, Mofaz agree to form unity government, cancel early elections – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition chairman MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) reached an agreement early Tuesday morning to form a national unity government and cancel early elections, which had been expected to take place on September 4.

Under the agreement, Kadima will join Netanyahu’s government and support its policies in exchange for a commitment that the government will support its proposal for an alternative to the Tal Law, which allows full-time yeshiva students to defer national service.

This was always a strong possibility with a Mofaz-led Kadima — remember that Kadima was formed when Sharon split from Likkud to withdraw from Gaza. Half of the Kadima MKs are Likkudniks and really it was only a matter of time before they joined Likkud in government.

Between them, the two parties have a near majority in their own right. Add Barak’s Atzmeut party and you have what a lot of us have been praying for: a strong, secular, centrist coalition (yep, “praying”).

Getting rid of all the crazies means that Bibi can allow the Tal Law to expire and stop this ridiculous Haredi exemption from contributing to Israeli society. It also means that he will no longer be beholden to Lieberman, which immediately curtails the encroaching Putin-esque antidemocratic reforms from Beitenu and gives space for the opening of markets that the country desperately needs in order to address its numerous economic woes.

Overall, this is the best thing that has happened in Israeli politics since at least 2009. Hopefully it will live up to its potential.

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Israeli settlement approval committee better than expected

When I heard about this committee to retroactively legalise settlement outposts, I definitely raised an eyebrow (and possibly died a little inside, but hey).

Luckily, it doesn’t look like the thing has any legs. Or teeth, or other assorted body parts. Bibi made this pretty clear by telling the settlers not to expect much. Even right wing stalwart Benny Begin is vocally opposing the idea of the committee.

So who is left promoting this PR disaster that undermines the fabric of Israeli society and rule of law? None other than Danny Danon aka the nicest thing Israeli parliament ever did for Palestinian extremism.

Who even needs an anti-Israel media campaign when you have a deputy speaker of the Knesset travelling the world who is guaranteed to say the wrong thing at the wrong time at every opportunity?

Israeli bid to legalize West Bank outposts hits AG objections – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

On Friday officials in the Prime Minister’s Bureau told settler leaders not to expect too much from the committee.

Somewhat surprisingly, Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin has come out against the proposed body, arguing that it is immoral to steal land for settlements.

Last night Yesha Council of settlements head Danny Dayan told Haaretz, “It often seems as if the prime minister has conceded his authority to control two executive branch bodies: the Attorney General’s Office and the Civil Administration. The ministers must take action to restore the authorities to their original format.”

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Israel will never make peace from the corner

 

There are still too many people talking about Israeli intransigence. In the best rebuke that I have seen of Netanyahu’s various statements in the US last week (as in, the only one that didn’t read as if the author had presupposed that Bibi was wrong and then gone about finding reasons why), former mayor of Jerusalem Jeff Barak writes on why Bibi’s statements made negotiations and a peace deal look further off than ever. And to an extent, he’s not wrong.

The limits of rhetoric – JPost – Opinion – Columnists

This is inevitable, and it’s also the right move for those who wish to maintain Israel’s capital as a Jewish city. There is no escaping it.

As Jerusalem’s former mayor, I know this well, and it’s possible. Those who refuse to discuss it terminate the chances for a peace process. One can speak nicely, stir up rightist radicals and draw applause from the settlers, yet this will not bring peace, genuine negotiations or global understanding [of Israel’s position].”

INDEED, NETANYAHU’S remarks on Jerusalem slammed the door shut on any hope that his government had the slightest intention of entering into negotiations with the Palestinians. His stirring phrases might have boosted his standing in the opinion polls, but opinion polls do not change reality.

That said, there have been a lot of events spurring this supposed intransigence – there are some very good reasons why Israelis are giving up on peace. Elliot Abrahams, a prolific Middle East analyst from the Council on Foreign relations, has outlined all these, shedding light on exactly how far weak Palestinian leadership and confused policy from the Obama administration have allowed the situation to deteriorate.

 

The Third Man | The Weekly Standard

The incoherence of U.S. policy is summed up in this passage from Obama’s AIPAC speech: “We know that peace demands a partner​—​which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist. .  .  . But the march to isolate Israel internationally​—​and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations​—​will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative.” So Israel cannot be expected to negotiate and it must start negotiating.

That is where the president stands after two years of involvement in Middle East peacemaking, and his problems are largely of his own making…We would not be where we are had all three men​—​Abbas, Netanyahu, Obama​—​not given up on each other, a striking failure in American diplomacy.

As Abraham points out, this is causing the Israeli public to feel increasingly isolated and jaded, rallying them around those who seem to be taking a principled stand against the pressure that they are receiving from all sides.

British novelist Howard Jacobson summed this up well on Australian TV recently, observing that everyone points fingers at Israelis without trying to understand exactly how they feel and why they do what they do.

Sydney Writers’ Festival | Q&A | ABC TV.

The Israeli Government has to deal with the problem that the people with whom it must negotiate – some of the people with whom it must negotiate say you’ve got no right to exist. You do not have any. So they’re frightened. Well, blow me the Israelis are frightened. It’s not often understood how frightened Israelis are. They are there surrounded on all sides by people who would like them not to be there.

As Larry Derfner wrote in the the Jerusalem Post, this sense of fear and isolation leads to exactly the policies that then spark further condemnation, which continues the spiral toward further fear.

 

Ours is not to reason why – JPost – Opinion – Columnists

Remember the hysteria over the coriander menace? Until a year ago, we were stopping coriander and God knows how many other edibles from entering Gaza – in the name of national security! Then the Mavi Marmara sails for Gaza, we shoot it up, the pressure’s on again, and suddenly a long list of previously banned foods – yes, even coriander – is moving into Gaza, and suddenly no one wants to remember how mindless and sheep-like they were to take the army’s and government’s word that this insane policy was necessary to keep Israel safe.

This is the problem with all of the pressure on Israel and the relentless condemnation of everything Netanyahu does – ironically, rather than forcing Israel to make concessions and advancing whatever vestige of hope there may be for a resumption of negotiations, it only increases the Israeli public’s sense of helplessness and drives public opinion to the right. As Abrahams points out, Israelis have made concessions in the past not under fierce condemnation, but rather when they feel that whoever is asking for concessions is on their side and that they are not the only side being forced to do so.

All of this makes life harder for Israel and in a way easier for Prime Minister Netanyahu. When a deeply sympathetic American president asks for concessions and compromises and appears able to cajole some from the Palestinians, which was the Clinton/Rabin and Bush/Sharon combination, Israel must respond. When a president most Israelis regard as hostile pushes them while the PLO leadership turns to Hamas, most Israelis will back Netanyahu’s tough response.

It is absurd to suggest that peace is ebbing away because of Netanyahu. He may have been a factor, but there has been a dramatic failure from the Palestinian Authority and the US to do anything conducive to a dialogue or compromise. At the moment, it looks like the best idea would be to top trying to make peace…and rather, start trying to prevent a war from breaking-out.

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Here lies President Barak Obama/Whose word no man relies on…

Who never said a foolish thing,
Or ever did a wise one.

Following a theme that I’ve been seeing of comparing Obama to poetic figures, Walter Russell Meade referenced a poem by the Earl of Rochester, written about King Charles II of England, but ascribed here to Obama and his Middle East policy. This is in the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s astounding speech to a joint session of US Congress, which was met with an almost unbelievable number of standing ovations and a great deal of support. As Meade says:

The Dreamer Goes Down For The Count | Via Meadia

Netanyahu beat Obama like a red-headed stepchild; he played him like a fiddle; he pounded him like a big brass drum.  The Prime Minister of Israel danced rings around his arrogant, professorial opponent.  It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters go up against the junior squad from Miss Porter’s School; like watching Harvard play Texas A&M, like watching Bambi meet Godzilla — or Bill Clinton run against Bob Dole.

The speech once again showed that whatever you make of his views, methods and stances, Bibi is a very smooth political operator and an outstanding orator. Obama’s speeches have made his career, so the fact that an (albeit US-educated) Israeli can wipe the floor with him in his home turf says a hell of a lot.

Here are the full video and transcript:

Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to his response to the heckler – brilliant and quick, with some of the loudest applause of the whole speech.

You know, I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies you can have protests. You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy. So as we share the hopes of these young people throughout the Middle East and Iran that they’ll be able to do what that young woman just did — I think she’s young; I couldn’t see quite that far…we must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out, as they were in Tehran in 1979

It is very difficult to argue with most of Bibi’s stances after watching that in full. He also did make some unprecedented concessions. He not only unequivocally reaffirmed his belief in the two-state solution, but he actually recognised the Palestinian narrative.

No distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land. But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy where their creativity and initiative can flourish. Now, we’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years, the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves.

And then he argued for his demand that the Palestinian Authority recognise Israel as a Jewish state, with a very strong argument.

And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And, worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy the Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.

My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people — and I told you it wasn’t easy for me. I stood before my people, and I said, ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’ Those six words will change history. They’ll make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end, that they’re not building a Palestinian state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace

I actually think that he was right on the mark here. If the Israelis are willing to accept the Palestinian narrative, accept their claim to the land, treat them as the nation that they define themselves as and affirm their right to their national homeland, why is it so unreasonable that they reciprocate?

Of course it is difficult for them to accept the Zionist narrative, but if they reject everything that 5 million Israelis – and probably another 10 million Zionist Jews in the Diaspora – define themselves by, how can there ever be a peace agreement? How could they ever compromise on anything pragmatically if they can’t make that ideological concession?

He even addressed the refugee issue very well – and he is absolutely right. In the same way that everyone must recognise that the borders will not be identical to pre-1967, not every descendant of Palestinian refugees will be able to move back to the precise town or village where their ancestors lived; but a just solution can be found through other means.

We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, to be independent, to be prosperous. All of you, and the president, too, have referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as you’ve been talking about a future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people.

Well, Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the one and only Jewish state. And Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state.

And here’s what this means: It means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.

The issues that are controversial are the lines he drew on the map – specifically, refusing to leave the Jordan valley or to divide Jerusalem.

But Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth. So it’s therefore vital, absolutely vital, that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it’s vital, absolutely vital, that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.

Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they’re necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. Because in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow. And, my friends, when I say “Tomorrow,” I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean tomorrow.
…Throughout the millennial history of the Jewish capital, the only time that Jews, Christians and Muslims could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites, has been during Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know this is a difficult issue for Palestinians, but I believe that with creativity and with goodwill, a solution can be found. So this is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well that in the Middle East the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend. So peace must be anchored in security.

That said, I would like to believe that if negotiations were happening, these issues could be addressed. Bibi is unique at the moment in terms of all parties involved in the negotiations in that he alone has laid-out exactly where his lines are and what he wants. Neither Obama nor Abbas and (definitely not Hamas) have stated what it is exactly that they hope to achieve and what their vision of a solution is. So long as Abbas refuses to sit down at the table, it is hard to see how that will ever happen.

It’s true that Bibi too is now refusing to sit down, as a result of the unity agreement with Hamas, but again, how could he negotiate with Hamas? What hope could there possibly be? Hamas see it their God-given duty to kill Jews, they think that if they kill a Jew they go to heaven and if they are killed by a Jew they go to heaven. They believe that Jews controlling a state on what should be Muslim land is a crime against God and that violence is the only way to address this. And yet Israel is supposed to negotiate with them?

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The last month in Cut and Paste

Goldstone Report

Judge Richard Goldstone commented in the Washington Post on an 18-month review of the UN-mandated report that he prepared in September 2009 investigating Israel’s Gaza incursion.

He recognised that Israel did not deliberately fire on civilians and condemned Hamas for doing so and then failing to investigate it.

Our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report…Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothin

At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel.

That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

Funny thing is, Hamas had promised to investigate it – as Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus said last year when the report was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.

We thank our people, all those who support to submit again this report to the human rights committee and all the countries who voted for the report…We will co-operate with this report and we will establish a new committee to investigate.

In fact, take another look at that:

The UN human rights council has endorsed the Goldstone report on Israel’s war on Gaza, which accuses the military of using disproportionate force as well as laying charges of war crimes on Israeli occupation forces and Hamas.

The council’s resolution adopting the report was passed in Geneva by 25 votes to six with 11 countries abstaining and five declining to vote.

Terror attack in Gaza

Apparently, firing on a school bus was in self-defence, so said Hamas spokesman Fauzi Barhum on April 7 while taking responsibility for a rocket attack on a school bus in Southern Israel.

The resistance movement’s response to the enemy’s massacre comes as self-defense, and to protect the citizens. It aims to pressure the occupier to stop committing crimes.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague didn’t quite agree:

This is a despicable and cowardly act that stands in stark contrast to people’s desire for peaceful reform across the region. Violence will never deliver peace. I reiterate that Hamas must halt these strikes immediately, and rein in other militant factions in Gaza.”

Neither did the US State Department:

We condemn the attack on innocent civilians in southern Israel in the strongest possible terms as well as ongoing rocket fire from Gaza. We have reiterated many times there is no justification of the targeting of innocent civilians and those responsible for these terrorist acts should be held accountable…We are particularly concerned about reports that indicate the use of an advanced anti-tank weapon in an attack against …Any attack on innocent civilians is abhorrent but certainly the nature of the attack is particularly so.

Neither did Netanyahu, although he did offer to stop escalating tensions on April 10:

No other country would be willing to countenance the intentional firing of an anti-tank missile at a children’s bus, to say nothing of criminal attacks against civilians, and Israel is certainly not willing to accept it.

Today, the Cabinet instructed the IDF to do whatever is necessary to stop the firing at our people and restore quiet to the south. This is our intention. I hope that this will be Hamas’s intention as well. If this is what it intends, then quiet will return. If it steps up its aggression, it will feel our arm and our response will be much harsher.

According to Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas also wants a ceasefire. Although, he admitted that the military wing is a little out of control.

The Palestinian groups are only defending themselves and our people. We do not intend to inflame the situation but we can not keep quiet when faced with aggression…We didn’t know that the bus was carrying children. It was driving on a road which is often used by Israeli military vehicles, which is often targeted by armed Palestinian group

There is coordination with the political leadership over the bigger picture but on the ground, it is the armed wing which decides the appropriate time to respond to the Israeli aggressions. We give general guidance about what stance to take in response to Israel’s position, but the armed wing has freedom of action and decisions made in the field are not the responsibility of the political leadership.

The military wing, of course, don’t particularly want a ceasefire. They are pretty keen to boast about their terror attacks though:

Al-Qassam Brigades’ operations during the last Forty-Eight hours:

First: Targeting a bus was traveling between the Zionist military sites on the strip border, east of Gaza City, at around three o’clock on Thursday, 07.04.2011, ​​near the so-called “Kfar Saad,” the bus was passing in the way of tanks and artillery.

Second: Al-Qassam Brigades within forty-eight hours pounded the Zionist military sites adjacent to the Gaza Strip with 68 rockets and mortars (28 rockets and 40 mortar shells).

Al-Qassam Brigades emphasize the following:

First: The Zionist enemy is responsible for these crimes and escalation in the Gaza Strip, the Zionist arrogance and aggression will not deter us from doing our duty to respond to aggression.

Second: There is no opportunity to talk about calm between us and the occupation at a time Zionist entity bombs our people and committing massacres, but the blood of our people will not be wasted.

Third: We will continue our revolution and our jihad against the occupiers, rand our entire nation and the free world with us until liberating Palestine.

Meanwhile, Israel continued trying to stop weapons reaching Gaza by capping the guys who are smuggling them in, according to this Hamas spokesman:

”He was in Sudan co-ordinating new smuggling routes for weapons arriving from Iran, which then pass through the border into Egypt, across to the Sinai and into Gaza. No one but Israel could have been responsible for the attack.”

BDS

Bob Brown figures that BDS might have cost them Marrickville:

I think it had an effect on [the election] – that’s my feedback from the electorate and it’s no doubt something that the NSW Greens will be looking at.

Lee Rhiannon, however, reckons that BDS just wasn’t explained well:

Months before the election we needed to explain why the Greens backed BDS and we needed to work closer with our allies on BDS – academics, the Arab community and social justice movements in Sydney and MelbourneCollectively we didn’t do enough to amplify support for BDS and show that this is part of an international movement.

Kevin Rudd, however, doesn’t agree:

Senator-elect Rhiannon’s stand on a boycott of Israel is just plain loopy. But it’s more than just loopy. It verges on the dangerous. It’s dangerous because it reflects no analysis of the complexity of the Middle East peace process, nor of what Israel and the Palestinian Authority are trying to do, nor of what (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister (Salam) Fayyad are doing with their own direct engagement with Israel. This is the stuff of foreign policy being made by pre-schoolers. The whole principle of BDS…is unacceptable to Australia and ineffective in driving any real outcome in the peace process.”

Syria and the UN Human Rights Council

Last but not least, it’s ok that Syria is going to be voted onto the UNHRC unopposed, because it really cares about human rights, at least according to its UN ambassador.

The so-called turmoil does not affect our candidacy, these are two different issues… Syria considers that the protection of human dignity and fundamental rights are the base of freedom, justice and peace. Promotion and protection of human rights are of the highest importance to Syria.

Again, the US doesn’t quite see eye-to-eye:

We are deeply concerned by reports that Syrians who have been wounded by their government are being denied access to medical care. The escalating repression by the Syrian government is outrageous, and the United States strongly condemns the continued efforts to suppress peaceful protesters. President Assad and the Syrian government must respect the universal rights of the Syrian people, who are rightly demanding the basic freedoms that they have been denied.

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